Head over to The Wilderness Downtown, punch in the address of the home where you grew up, and watch the magic unfold. The "experience" is definitely one of the most interesting demos to come out of Google's Chrome Experiments thus far. It's a fantastic showcase of what HTML5 and modern browsers bring to the table.
As director Chris Milk told Wired, "[HTML5] is in its infancy right now, but I think the browser will be the next widely recognized artistic medium." He continues by adding "It allows such a larger dialog with the viewer. There's actual two-way communication going on between the art and the observer."
One parting note: is it just me, or was that HTML5 progress indicator every bit as annoying as the ones we've grown accustomed to with Flash preloaders? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Google is a big proponent of HTML5, especially for video and rich graphics in the browser. To show off what HTML5 can do, Google Chrome teamed up with the Arcade Fire and director Chris Milk to create a custom interactive video for their song, “We Used To Wait.” The experience is called The Wilderness Downtown and is best viewed in Chrome or other HTML5-compliant browser.
You start by typing in the address of the house you grew up in, then it loads a video of a guy in a hoodie running through the streets. Different windows pop open on your screen, some with graphics, some with videos. Google Maps and Street View images of your old neighborhood are incorporated into the video. All the video is in HTML5, different windows open up triggered by the music, and you even see a fly-over of your neighborhood based on Google Maps’ routing API.
Today we’re excited to launch a musical experience made specifically for the browser, called “The Wilderness Downtown.” The project was created by writer/director Chris Milk with the band Arcade Fire and Google.
“The Wilderness Downtown” is set to Arcade Fire’s new song “We Used to Wait”, and showcases many of the latest developments on the web. It features a mash-up of Google Maps and Google Street View with HTML5 canvas, HTML5 audio and video, an interactive drawing tool, and choreographed windows that dance around the screen. These modern web technologies have helped us craft an experience that is personalized and unique for each viewer, as you virtually run through the streets where you grew up.
Browsers and the modern web have indeed come a long way since Chrome was introduced, and we hope this project provides a glimpse at some of what the future holds. The project was built with Chrome in mind, so it’s best experienced in Chrome’s beta or stable builds. To launch the project and learn more about how we made it, please visit our Chrome Experiments site at www.chromeexperiments.com/arcadefire.
One of the most talked about features in Safari 5 has been its Reader function -- Apple's built-in implementation of the Readability bookmarklet. Both are nice ways to reformat articles on blog or news sites for distraction-free reading.
If you like the look of Safari Reader but would rather not change from Google Chrome or Firefox, don't worry. The iReader extension brings the same functionality to your browser of choice!
Like Safari Reader, iReader shrouds the background in semi-opaque blackness . Hover near the bottom of the page to display zoom and print controls, as well as e-mail/Twitter/Facebook sharing buttons. iReader is also highly configurable -- set Gmail as your 'send page' client, change the display font, activate smooth scrolling, set the "curtain" to be more or less transparent, and adjust the reading area and margins. You can also choose hotkey combination to activate iReader (rather than having to click on the Omnibar icon).
I'm not sure when the changes actually landed, but Google has announced that an early implementation of hardware acceleration is now available in developer versions of Chrome 7.
Early testing suggests that performance is still worse than Internet Explorer 9, but the gap has definitely been closed a bit. The '1000 fish test' now clocks in at about 10 frames per second, which is definitely an improvement from last time -- but still some way short of IE9's 45 FPS.
The Chromium blog post says that only some content is being accelerated, so the Fish Tank might not be a fair comparison of the browsers. I'll try to find a better test or benchmark and share my findings later today. You can enable hardware acceleration in Chrome with the --enable-accelerated-compositing flag -- and if you discover anything interesting, please share your findings in the comments!
Update: you might need a nightly build of Chromium to take advantage of this hardware acceleration. It would be nice if Google could explicitly state when the changes were made...
It’s no secret that Google sees the browser as a central part of future computing devices. The Chrome OS is just one of the many manifestations of this particular vision of the future. In Chrome OS, the browser (Google Chrome) is used to do everything from listening to music to editing documents and creating spreadsheets.
While Chrome OS based devices are still a few months away, Google is working hard to get its browser ready for various form factors. Just yesterday, we reported that future versions of Chrome will future GPU Acceleration that will enable it to do heavy duty computing (like scaling videos) with ease. Now DownloadSquad has discovered that speech recognition has been enabled in the latest Chromium builds. Of course, Chrome isn’t the first browser to get voice recognition. Opera received voice navigation support as far back as 2005 with Opera 8. However, this feature works only on Opera for Windows, and since its initial release there has been very little further improvement.
Google has also uncorked a few other handy features in Chrome, including support for device orientation and Google Labs. The former is an essential feature for netbooks, tablets and other accelerometer enabled devices. The latter on the other hand will enable curious users to get a taste of the latest features being cooked up by Google. To access it simply type about:labs in the omnibar (address bar). For now, Windows users can enjoy tabs on the left, while Mac users can play around with Google’s implementation of Tab Expose.
Google had originally pegged December 2010 for the first release of Chrome OS, but it's been looking like a fall release is now a safe bet. It's certainly netbook-ready at this point, though some missing features (like an on-screen keyboard) may mean that tablet devices arrive slightly later.
Developers keep plugging ahead, however, and continue to work on tablet-friendly features. Two code revisions have landed in the past couple days which will definitely make Chrome more at home on tablets. The first is device orientation support (think auto-rotating content on your Chrome OS tablet and accelerometer-enabled games) and the other is speech input (hello, voice commands!).
Both features have been part of the Chromium code for a while now, but they're now enabled by default and it's typically a very short amount of time between a new Chromium feature being defaulted and its arrival in the official Google Chrome builds. It's also worth noting that voice input support is only on by default for Chromium's Windows users -- Mac and Linux users would need to add the --enable-speech-input switch to their shortcut for the time being.
Developer Jeremy Selier has posted a simple-yet-cool demo video of device orientation using his Macbook Pro -- check it out after the break!
Google has introduced half a dozen new official Chrome themes, but you won't find them if you click the get themes link on your Personal Stuff menu. No, like the scores of user-created themes out there these new themes from Google have been dropped into the Extensions Gallery.
I'm sure the plan is to list everything in the Gallery at some point (possibly once it's re-branded as the Web Store?), but it really shouldn't be hard to give themes their own section on the existing Gallery. Or, you know, post them on the page Chrome takes you to when you click get themes.
The new themes are called Modern, Adaptive, Vibrant, Inventive, Fresh, and Orkut_Hudson. They're artist-created, and generally not for those of you who like Chrome's interface to be as unobtrusive as possible -- some are downright loud.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course -- tell us what you think of the new themes in the comments.
There's a big crop new extensions showing up which take advantage of Google Chrome's new context menu API, and that's great news for those of you who can't live without your right-click menu.
You can see a pair of newer extensions in my screenshot -- and while I'm not certain I'll be using the tab switcher, Copy Short URL is probably here to stay.
Just right-click a link and left-click and a bit.ly or tinyurl shortened link is copied to your clipboard for hassle-free sharing on your favorite social sites. That's it. Nice and simple, just how I like my extensions!
The developer states that more truncators will be added soon, which would be a welcome improvement. API and account support would be a nice touch as well -- perhaps that will be tacked on as well.
For some time now, there’s been a lot of work going on to overhaul Chromium’s graphics system. New APIs and markup like WebGL and 3D CSS transforms are a major motivation for this work, but it also lets Chromium begin to take advantage of the GPU to speed up its entire drawing model, including many common 2D operations such as compositing and image scaling. As a lot of that work has been landing in tip-of-tree Chromium lately, we figured it was time for a primer.
At its core, this graphics work relies on a new process (yes, another one) called the GPU process. The GPU process accepts graphics commands from the renderer process and pushes them to OpenGL or Direct3D (via ANGLE). Normally, renderer processes wouldn’t be able to access these APIs, so the GPU process runs in a modified sandbox. Creating a specialized process like this allows Chromium’s sandbox to continue to contain as much as possbile: the renderer process is still unable to access the system’s graphics APIs, and the GPU process contains less logic.
With this basic piece of infrastructure, we’ve started accelerating some content in Chromium. A web page can naturally be divided into a number of more or less independent layers. Layers can contain text styled with CSS, images, videos, and WebGL or 2D canvases. Currently, most of the common layer contents, including text and images, are still rendered on the CPU and are simply handed off to the compositor for the final display. Other layers use the GPU to accelerate needed operations that touch a lot of pixels. Video layers, for example, can now do color conversion and scaling in a shader on the GPU. Finally, there are some layers that can be fully rendered on the GPU, such as those containing WebGL elements.
After these layers are rendered, there’s still a crucial last step to blend them all onto a single page as quickly as possible. Performing this last step on the CPU would have erased most of the performance gains achieved by accelerating individual layers, so Chromium now composites layers on the GPU when run with the --enable-accelerated-compositing flag.
If you’d like to read more about this work, take a look at this design doc which outlines Chromium’s accelerated compositing system. Over time, we’re looking into moving even more of the rendering from the CPU to the GPU to achieve impressive speedups.
Starting soon, you just might be able to do that. Google OS spotted a new addition to the Chromium browser: an about:labs page. Load it up, and you'll see experimental browser features which you can enable -- like side tabs on Windows and tab expose on Mac.
At least, very soon you'll be able to turn the features on via this page. Right now, it's not functional. Clicking enable on tabs on the left didn't actually activate the feature for me -- I still had to add the --enable-vertical-tabs switch to my shortcut.
The addition of about:labs is a nice touch, and will allow more users to kick the tires on cutting-edge features. That, of course, is a good thing for Google. A larger group of testers should allow them to tackle bugs more quickly and push features from the dev and canary builds to the beta and stable channels even more quickly.
Using a web browser’s keyboard controls can speed up web surfing significantly. But most web browsers limit those keyboard shortcuts, and do not offer options to add additional hotkeys to speed up specific operations that are not supported by default.
Vimium is a Google Chrome extension that adds a few dozen keyboard controls to the browser to speed up web surfing.
The controls become available directly after installation, and can be used to achieve various goals in the Google browser.
It is for instance possible to press h, j, k or l to scroll left, down, up or right, press gg to automatically scroll to the top, or Shift-G to reach the bottom of the active page.
More useful than those commands that are already available, albeit set to different keys are the additional options that are provided by Vimium
Chrome users with Vimium installed can press t to open a new tab, d to close the active tab, u to restore the last closed tab and Shift-J or Shift-K to navigate quickly between tabs.
That’s just a sample of the possibilities that the extension offers. Other commands of interest are Shift-H, and Shift-L, that allow to go back or forward in history. This especially is useful for users who usually right-click to do that, as the right-click menu does not always offer that functionality.
The key r reloads the current page, and y copies the url to the clipboard.
A complete list of commands is available at the Google Chrome Extensions gallery page. It is possible to pause the extension by pressing i, which ignores all hotkeys until Esc is hit.
Vimium can speed up standard web surfing processes in the Chrome browser. Firefox find in Vimperator a similar extension for their browser.
So, what is Native Client all about? It's Google open source tech which allows native code (the kind of code which powers your favorite desktop apps) to run inside your browser. Assuming that browser is Google Chrome, of course, because no one else sports NaCl support yet. Native code in the browser should mean the arrival of Web apps that truly compete with desktop apps in terms of performance -- which could be a big boost to things like online media converters and photo editors. At the very least, you'll be able to play Quake in Chrome.
If you want to see Native Client in action, Google has a gallery of NaCl demo ports you can check out -- or at least you're meant to be able to check them out. Both Chrome dev and Canary responded with a "missing plug-in" message when i tried to load them, even though Native Client was enabled (as you can see in my screenshot).
The dev channel update was actually quite a major one, though it mostly contained bugfixes and cleaned up code. The full log of revisions is available here.
update: as reported in the comments, you need to add the --enable-nacl flag to your shortcut. I've done that, and the demos still don't load, however. The missing plug-in message did disappear at least...
Google Chrome has been cited as being the greatest browser since Firefox, and it has even more of a claim to fame now that it offers free extensions. Unlike the Firefox addon’s typical measurement of value, “is it worth the slowdown?”, Chrome extensions offer convenience with fast page renders, regardless of the platform or the number of other extensions currently attempting to load. This article showcases fifteen extensions that all users should consider Installing.
1. Google Mail Checker: This is a self-explanatory extension. Click it to open Gmail when it notifies you of an unread message.
2. RSS Subscription Extension: This extension detects when there is an RSS feed that can be subscribed to, indicating such by placing an icon into the address bar. Clicking it will deliver the feed.
3. Xmarks: This extension will effectively allow Xmarks users to tie Chrome into their account, which allows bookmarks to be seamlessly shared across Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.
4. iMacros for Chrome: iMacros, currently in beta, is a popular extension that allows you to record what you do with Chrome and therefore automate tasks. This extension is especially handy if you use a lot of sites and are constantly logging in and out of accounts.
5. Aviary Screen Capture: Instantly captures part of a Web page in a neat and convenient interface that is easy to use.
6. Picnik Extension: Similar to above, but there is the added option to select one image in particular from a drop down list of your captures.
7. FlashBlock: With another self-explanatory name, FlashBlock effectively blocks all of the flash on a Web page unless you specify that a certain domain may retain its functionality. This extension adds convenience with keyboard shortcuts.
8. AdThwart: As the name suggests, this extension effectively removes ads for your viewing pleasure.
9. AdSweep: This is quite similar to the aforementioned extension, except it sweeps away ads and does so using a different blacklist than its younger sibling extension. Mixed together, however, you can achieve great anti-advertisement viewing.
10. Brizzly: This extension is definitely a time saver, allowing users to quickly glance at their recent Facebook and Twitter updates. A simple click is all it takes, automatically streaming social updates with embedded videos and images included. It also offers the ability for the user to update their status as well.
11. Google Alerter: There exist some extensions to notify users of unread mail, new pings in Google Wave or Google Voice, but this extension is an all-in-one convenient package of uber Google checking. It will check Reader, Wave and Gmail for new, unvisited pings.
12. Chromium Delicious Plugin: Recent Delicious bookmarks can be easily saved and retrieved through this extension.
13. ChromeMilk: This extension is a handy to-do list for those who can’t ever seem to remember that they need to pick up the milk while they are out on the road. Pro members can get themselves a version for their iPhone so that they really don’t have any excuses.
14. LastPass: This is more of an extension for Xmarks, which is one of the aforementioned extensions. It allows passwords to seamlessly sync across multiple profiles and browser types.
15. Fittr Flickr: Flickr is a handy website on its own, but this extension adds new functionality, such as a lightbox style gallery, more photo information and the inclusion of keyboard shortcuts. If Flickr was great before, this extension makes it unbeatable.
The Chromium developers have really redefined versioning at least when it comes to their web browser. The browser that made its first appearance in 2008 has now reached version 7 in the developer channel, with the likelihood that the beta and stable channels will follow suite later this year.
Usually, a major leap in version correlates to a big change in a product. Not so with Google Chrome 7, as the first release fixes one issue for all operating systems, one Mac specific issue and stability fixes for the Chrome Frame feature.
That’s not really anything to get excited about, some would even go so far to state that the only reason Chrome accelerates the versioning is to beat Internet Explorer and Opera who currently sit tight in the first two spots with versions 9 and 10 respectively.
But it is only a matter of time until Google Chrome manages to get ahead of those two browsers. Will the developers top there, or will we see releases of Google Chrome 15 in two year’s time?
Users who want to download the latest dev release of Google Chrome 7 can do so at the official dev channel download page.
Chrome Pig extension checks Gmail, takes screenshots -- and lets you set clipboard images as wallpaper!
In general, I prefer Chrome extensions which don't try to do too much. Do one thing, and do it well is a good general rule, after all. However, once in a while a Swiss-knife extension crops up which is filled to overflowing with useful features and just begs to be installed.
Enter Chrome Pig. Yes, it's weirdly named. Yes, it includes a somewhat random mish-mosh of features, but dang, are they handy ones. Chrome Pig can:
- Screenshot an entire page, the viewable portion, or a selected region
- Check Gmail for unread messages (you must be signed in)
- Open supported files types in the Google Docs previewer
- Edit a page's CSS to your liking
- Re-enable right click on sites which disable it
- Search the site you're currently browsing
- Open the current page in IE
- Set a clipboard image to your desktop wallpaper
I've put the last one in bold because it's a feature which you would think should be included by default in a Web browser. Firefox, Opera, and IE can all do this, but Chrome can't? Why? At any rate, problem solved! With Chrome Pig installed, just right click and copy an image, click its browser action button, and set the clipboard image to your wallpaper -- it will even resize, center, or tile.
Some of Chrome Pig's features -- lyric search, form fill, and translate, for example -- I can do without. The configuration page offers checkboxes to disable unwanted items, though they still appeared in the drop-down after multiple disable/enable attempt and a browser restart. Hopefully the developer will address this issue in a coming update.
That shortcoming aside, I'm happily adding Chrome Pig to my extensions -- it'll replace two other and add a couple additional features which will come in handy.
Chrome: If you find yourself frequently cutting and pasting links from your web browser to include in Twitter updates, TweetRight offers easy sharing of pictures, text, and links right from the Chrome's context menu. More »
Windows/Linux (with Chrome): By default, Google Chrome exits the entire program when you've closed the last tab. Chrome extension Last Tab Standing prevents this from happening by opening an empty new tab page when you close your last tab. More »